We grow up surrounded by examples of life that don't match what we are, we feel shame of what we are and feel and want, we hide, we are scared.
It's a long process, the one that resolves in the complete acceptance of ourselves, and it goes through lies, secrets, fear.
Luckily, I've lived in a very open minded family, in a time and in places where sexual orientations that differ from the dominant one are not a crime, and crimes against LGBTQ people are not the norm, but rather exceptions to it.
Despite that, it did take a long time for me to accept who I was, lying to myself first, then to the people around me, till I finally realised that if someone wasn't OK with it, it wasn't my problem, but theirs. I was probably around 22 then.
All the time before that, when talking to someone, I always asked myself if it was appropriate to say that I had a boyfriend, or that I fancied that one boy, or that the reason why my eyes looked so sad was that I had just broken up after a 3 year long relationship with my first boyfriend. Very simple things that any heterosexual person doesn't really need to ponder on. While everybody was getting into relationships in high school, I couldn't allow myself to fancy anyone. When my grandmother asked when I would bring a pretty girl home, I just had to smile without answering. Think about how many things are given for granted by you, but that for me were a deep stab in my stomach.
In particular, in my personal experience, I've always feared females' judgement less than straight males'. In my teen age years, it was very hard for me to befriend boys, scared that they would mock my more sensitive attitude or different tastes. After I came out, I was still scared that they could judge me for my sexual orientation, and I withdrew in a shell whenever around them. It was probably all in my head.
At some point though, I was strong enough to stop filtering myself (I don't deny that my environment probably helped me doing that) and here I am, writing about it where anybody can read it.
It took huge efforts, but what helped me was the realisation that I didn't want to live a life that wasn't mine.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I wrote my first explicitly gay song, challenging my shame once more.
The first times I performed it I was very self-conscious. What would have people thought of that? Of me? When one of the first things strangers knew of me on a stage was that I was gay. Luckily, lately I've seen a few gay songwriters explicitly singing about their feelings, but that's definitely still the exception.
So last year, when deciding which song was going to be my first single, I chose exactly that one, Ryan, to exorcise this heavy and painful burden I've carried on my shoulders for so long.
It's not that homosexuality is my main trait (nor anyone elses! We are not gay men, we are not lesbian women, we are men who are also gay, women who are also lesbian), but after hiding it for so long, I wanted to shout it out and shamelessly.
I was prepared for rejection and hatred, but all I got was a warm response, people humming along and requesting the song at gigs, people sharing the video online, messages from friends and fans telling me how much they liked it.
These people included the ones I had avoided for fear of rejection in my younger years. The amount of straight males who loved the song and supported it in many different ways was definitely what surprised me the most. The shame of my sexuality was finally killed by the extreme support all these people gave me without even noticing how much it has positively affected me.
How stupid was I, hiding my authentic self to avoid a rejection that probably would have never happened!
It is because of strong, brave people that this is now possible. People who were not afraid of what they were, and fought for their (and my and our and your) rights. People who suffered the consequences of their brave and just actions and had to face the ignorance of a society that feared the different.
Although the stigma is still real in many ways, I am lucky to live in a time and a society where I am able to be who I really am and completely.
Not everybody could say the same in the past, not everybody can say the same now and my gratitude for all the human beings that have made their part in achieving this and still are fighting for complete equality for ALL human beings is endless.
(February is LGBT History Month, let's celebrate love, let's celebrate our selves)